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TWO LECTURES 



INTRODUCTORY TO THE 



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TWO LECTURES 



INTRODUCTORY TO THE 



STUDY OF POETRY 



BY THE 

REV. H. C. BEECHING M.A. 

LATE CLARK LECTURER AT TRINITY COLLEGE, CAMBRIDGE, 

PROFESSOR OF PASTORAL THEOLOGY AT KING'S COLLEGE, LONDON, 

CHAPLAIN TO THE HON. SOC. OF LINCOLN'S INN. 



CAMBRIDGE: 

AT THE UNIVERSITY PRESS. 

1901 

[All Rights reserved.} 



Cambridge : 

PRINTED BY J. AND C. F. CLAY, 
AT THE UNIVERSITY PRESS. 



PASSION AND IMAGINATION 
IN POETRY. 

THE unsatisfactoriness of definitions of poetry 
arises usually from one or other of two causes. 
If the definition is that of a critic, it is the 
resultant of a long analytical process, and there- 
fore not very intelligible apart from the process 
by which it has been arrived at; if it is the 
definition of a poet, it is certain to contain that 
element of poetry which it professes to explain. 
Nevertheless, the most helpful aper$us into poetry 
are those which the poets themselves have given 
us, and of them all none is more helpful than 
that inspired parenthesis in which Milton one 
day summed up its characteristics as "simple, 
sensuous, and passionate." 

B. i 



2 Passion and Imagination in Poetry. 

We may presume that by his first epithet 
Milton intended that simplicity which is another 
name for sincerity. He meant that a poet must 
look at the world frankly and with open eyes ; 
with the spirit, though with more than the 
wisdom, of a child. We sometimes express 
another side of the same truth by saying that 
poetry is " universal," meaning that it cares 
nothing for superficial and transient fashions, 
but is interested only " in man, in nature, and 
in human life," in their permanent elements. 
This first epithet seems to fix beyond dispute 
an indispensable quality of all poetry. If a 
writer is insincere, or if he is conventional and 
fashionable, we are sure, whatever his airs and 
graces, that he is no poet. By " sensuous " it 
is probable that Milton meant what, in more 
technical language, we should describe as " con- 
crete." Poetry deals with things, and it deals 
with people ; it sings of birds and flowers and 
stars ; it sings of the wrath of Achilles, the 
wanderings of Ulysses and ^Eneas, the woes of 



Passion and Imagination in Poetry. 3 

King CEdipus, the problems of Brutus and 
Hamlet ; whatever be the thought or the emo- 
tion it is concerned with, it is concerned with 
them as operating on a particular occasion ; it 
has no concern with the intellect or the emotions 
or the will in abstraction from this or that wise 
or passionate or wilful person 1 . By his third 
epithet Milton, as most will agree, touched, or 
almost touched, the heart of the matter. We 
all conceive prose to be an adequate vehicle for 
our level feelings, but as soon as we are deeply 
moved and wish to express our emotion we 
instinctively turn to the poets. Wordsworth is 
at one with Milton in fixing upon passion as 



1 The tradition of this concreteness was not lost even in the 
eighteenth century. Poets, living in a time of abstract thought, 
and feeling under the necessity of handling abstractions, hit upon 
the device of personifying them, with the result that from the 
pages of Dodsley's Miscellany every faculty of the mind and every 
operation of every science looks out at one with a capital letter, 
a fashion happily parodied in the famous line : 

" Inoculation, heavenly maid, descend." 

Gray is not untouched with the malady, though, on the whole, 
he represents a reaction back to the richness of the concrete, 
the " pomp and prodigality " of Shakespeare and Milton. 



4 Passion and Imagination in Poetry. 

of the essence of poetry, which he in one place 
defines as " the spontaneous overflow of power- 
ful feelings." It does not matter for poetry 
what the emotion is that overflows ; it may be 
love or hate, pity or fear, awe or indignation, joy 
or sorrow ; what matters for poetry is that some 
passion there should be, for some particular 
object, and that it should be sincerely and deeply 
felt. 

Essential, however, as passion is, so that 
where there is no passion there can be no 
poetry, in saying passion we have not said the 
last word. Anyone may prove this to himself 
by a simple reminiscence. He may at some 
time have been in love, for, according to Pat- 
more, " Love wakes men once a lifetime each " ; 
and, perhaps, in a mood of exaltation he may 
have taken pen and paper for a sonnet to his 
mistress' eyebrow ; but the poetry did not come ; 
or, if something came, in a calmer mood he 
recognized that it was not poetry. Or we may 
illustrate from other passions. At the Queen's 



Passion and Imagination in Poetry. 5 

Jubilee a few years since we were all passionately 
loyal, and the morning newspapers vied with 
each other in producing odes ; but no one could 
mistake any one of them for poetry. Or, the 
other day, again, when the Rennes verdict was 
announced, the intelligence of England was 
roused to a passion of indignation. I took up 
my weekly gazette the next Saturday morning 
and found that indignation had made a good 
many verses, in none of which was there a tinc- 
ture of poetry. There was much cursing and 
swearing, and appealing to Heaven for ven- 
geance ; but the point of view was merely that 
of "the man in the street." 

These simple examples will suffice to show 
that poetry requires a manner of viewing things 
which is not that of the average man, but is 
individual to the poet ; it requires, in a word, 
genius. One could hardly expect Milton to 
point this out ; having genius himself he would 
assume that everyone else had genius ; he would 
assume that we all had the power of looking at 



6 Passion and Imagination in Poetry. 



the world not only frankly but freshly, because 
he would not understand any other way of 
looking at it. Now, it is this fresh outlook and 
insight, this power of viewing things and people 
out of the associations in which the rest of man- 
kind habitually view them, that is the root of 
the whole matter. In the world of nature we 
find the poets moved even to passion by objects 
that we hardly notice, or from long familiarity 
have come to ignore. Their strong emotion 
arises from their fresh vision. By means of that 
fresh vision the world never ceases to be an in- 
teresting place to them. 

" By the murmur of a spring, 
Or the least bough's rustling, 
By a daisy whose leaves spread 
Shut when Titan goes to bed, 
Or a shady bush or tree, 
She could more infuse in me 
Than all Nature's beauties can 
In some other wiser man." 

So sang Wither of the Poetic Muse ; and 
Blake expresses the same truth in his inspired 
doggrel : 



Passion and Imagination in Poetry. 7 

"What to others a trifle appears 
Fills me full of smiles and tears." 

The converse of the proposition also holds true : 
what to others may appear facts of the highest 
importance, may to the poet appear trifles. 
Similarly in the world of men we find the poets 
as much interested in the least as in the greatest, 
and we find them unconcerned by many of the 
distinctions which to mankind in general appear 
vital. We find, for example, Andrew Marvell 
introducing into his panegyric of Oliver Pro- 
tector a picture of King Charles at his execution, 
which embalms the secret of all the cavalier 
loyalty, and is to-day the oftenest quoted pas- 
sage of his poem. 

The poet's subjects, then, are borrowed from 
any quarter in the whole range of nature and 
human experience; "the world is all before him 
where to choose"; anything that excites any 
deep emotion in him is a fit topic for his verse, 
and it is our privilege for the moment, so far 
as that one experience is concerned, to look 



8 Passion and Imagination in Poetry. 

through his eyes. In this way the poets interpret 
the world to us. They also interpret us to our- 
selves. They make adventurous voyages into 
hitherto unsounded seas of the human spirit, 
and bring us word of their discoveries. And 
what they thus win becomes an inalienable 
possession to the race ; the boundaries of hu- 
manity are pushed back. This power of inter- 
preting the world and human life is sometimes 
spoken of as an idealizing faculty, and no ex- 
ception can be taken to the term so long as 
it is not explained to mean that the poet tricks 
up what he sees in false lights in order to please 
us. For anyone who considers the best poetry, 
whether about the universe or man's heart, 
and it is only the best that must determine 
the genus will admit that, so far as he has 
trusted himself to it, it has convinced him of 
its entire veracity. It is idealized only in the 
sense that a landscape is idealized by the re- 
moval of the accidental and commonplace details, 
which sufficed to blind others to the beauty that 



Passion and Imagination in Poetry. 9 

the painter distinguished. The artist, poet or 
painter, sees the light that never was on sea or 
land until he saw it ; but when he has once seen 
it and shown it us, we can all see that it is there, 
and is not merely a figment of his fancy. This 
mode of viewing things, which by its freshness 
reveals, or interprets, or idealizes, is what is meant 
by Poetical Imagination. 

But now that that most terrifying of tech- 
nical terms has been mentioned, it may be well 
to make a short summary of the various senses 
in which the word is habitually employed, in 
order to observe what all, or any, of them have 
in common, and how they connect one with 
another. 

(a) When a psychologist speaks of imagi- 
nation he is not thinking of poetry ; he means 
by the word the power of summoning again 
before the mind's eye vivid images of what has 
been once seen. He bids us look carefully at 
our breakfast-table, and then, closing our eyes, 
notice how much of it we can recall, how clear 



io Passion and Imagination in Poetry. 

or dim an image. Whether skill in this memory- 
picturing has any link with poetical imagination 
it would be hard to say ; certainly to no one 
would a power of vividly recalling images be 
of greater service. The faculty seems to be 
entirely distinct from the power of attention 
and close observation. 

(b) A more familiar usage of the word is 
that which makes it almost a synonym for 
sympathy the power of projecting self into 
the circumstances of others. We know to our 
cost that many men and women are sadly to 
seek in this faculty, and it seems to be no 
especial prerogative of poets, though Shelley 
thought so. He speaks of the poet as 

" A nerve o'er which do creep 
The else unfelt oppressions of the earth." 

And in his prose essay he says : "A man to 
be greatly good must imagine intensely and 
comprehensively ; he must put himself in the 
place of another, and of many others ; the 
pains and pleasures of his species must become 



Passion and Imagination in Poetry. 1 1 

his own"; and he continues, "The great instru- 
ment of moral good is imagination, and poetry 
administers to the effect by acting upon the 
cause" (Essays, I. 16). Shelley in this passage 
is theorizing too much from his own personal 
feelings ; for it has often been remarked that 
poets have been singularly lacking in imagina- 
tion of this moral sort, and some have been 
conspicuous for an intense selfishness in their 
domestic relations. 

(c) But the word is also used not of moral, 
but of intellectual, sympathy ; a power of appre- 
ciating, by an act of intuition, the characteristic 
qualities of things and people so as to be able 
to set out a train of consequences. A celebrated 
novelist was once congratulated upon the ad- 
mirable drawing in one of her books of a 
particular school of Dissenters, and she was 
asked what opportunities she had enjoyed of 
studying them. Her reply was that she had 
once caught sight of a group of them through 
a half-opened door as she mounted a staircase. 



12 Passion and Imagination in Poetry. 

That is no doubt an extreme case, but it is all 
the more useful as an illustration. It helps us 
to realize how potent a faculty is the endow- 
ment of the dramatist, which can pierce through 
human appearance to its essential qualities, can 
conceive by a sure instinct how, in given circum- 
stances, the given character must act, and can 
represent it to us, because it is vivid to him, in 
all the verisimilitude of essential detail. Such 
imagination is plainly one large and special side 
of the faculty of seeing things out of their 
commonplace associations. As a branch of the 
same head would rank the still rarer power of 
conceiving types of character, that for certain 
reasons have no actual existence in the world 
we know, such types as Shakespeare's Ariel and 
Caliban and Puck. 

(d) The word imagination is also used of 
a faculty which may at first sight seem the 
opposite of this a faculty of seeing people and 
objects not as they are in themselves, but 
coloured by the atmosphere of joy or gloom 



Passion and Imagination in Poetry. 13 

through which they are seen. The truth, how- 
ever, probably is that nothing at all is, or ever 
can be, seen out of some atmosphere, a thing 
in itself being merely an abstraction ; but the 
greater a poet is, the more various are his moods, 
while with lesser men a particular mood may 
cover all the objects in their poetical world. 

(e) Again, the word has a narrower and 
more technical sense ; namely, the power of 
detecting resemblances in nature for the purpose 
of poetical illustration. This use of the term 
is not merely freakish, but connects with that 
broader and more fundamental sense to which 
I have so many times referred, the power and 
habit of seeing the " common things that round 
us lie" out of their commonplace associations, 
of seeing them in more subtle and original 
associations. For it is the power of bringing 
together two objects or events that the ordinary 
person would never dream of connecting, but in 
which the poet's eye has detected similarity, and 
which he therefore places side by side so that 



14 Passion and Imagination in Poetry. 

one may throw light upon the other. Our 
thinking, it will be admitted, is largely asso- 
ciational ; one thing recalls another ; but it is 
the prerogative of poets that the tracks between 
idea and idea in their minds are not those of 
common trade. Recur for a moment to Wither's 
reference to a daisy. We know beforehand 
what a daisy will suggest to a child, what to 
a gardener, what to a botanist; we do not know 
beforehand what it will suggest to a poet. It 
may suggest, as it did to Chaucer, a crowned 
queen : 

"A fret of gold she hadde next her hair, 
And upon that a white corown she bare 
With flourouns smalle, and (I shall not lie) 
For all the world right as a daisy 
Ycrowned is with white leaves light, 
So were the flourouns of her corown white." 

How utterly different from this is the vision 
of Burns ! To him the daisy is the type of 
humble cheerfulness, sweet neighbour and meet 
companion of the humble and cheerful lark. 
How different, again, was the feeling it in- 



Passion and Imagination in Poetry. 15 

spired in Wordsworth ! The point to strike 
home to him was the touch of kinship between 
the simplest flower and man in the fact that 
both are alive : 

" Sweet silent creature 
That breath'st with me in sun and air." 

Imagination, used in this restricted sense of 
the interpretation of phenomena by comparison, 
is often contrasted with a weaker form of itself 
to which the name of Fancy is given. The 
distinction was introduced into these islands 
by Coleridge, from whom it was borrowed by 
Wordsworth ; it was then popularized by Leigh 
Hunt and afterwards by Ruskin. It has played 
in the last half century so prominent a part 
in the criticism of poetry, that it is perhaps 
worth while to look it for once fairly in the 
face. Coleridge was always promising to give 
a disquisition upon Poetical Imagination, but 
he never kept his word ; he did, however, what 
was almost better ; in the Biographia Literaria 
he illustrated his meaning from some passages 



1 6 Passion and Imagination in Poetry. 

in his friend's poems ; and we gather from his 
comments that he did not at all mean Imagi- 
nation to be distinguished from Fancy as the 
perception of deeper from that of more super- 
ficial resemblances ; he wished the term Fancy 
to be kept for the use of poetical imagery of all 
kinds, and the term Imagination to be used of 
the poet's faculty as a creative artist. He speaks 
of it as a unifying power, bringing together 
whatever will help his purpose, and rejecting 
all that is impertinent and unessential. He 
speaks of it also as a vivifying power, turning 
"bodies to spirits by sublimation strange." That 
is to say he uses Imagination not so much of 
a quality of the poet's mind as of an artistic 
power which he exercises, the power of im- 
posing living form upon dead matter, he calls 
it in the Ode to Dejection " my shaping spirit 
of imagination"; but it is not hard to see 
that this unifying and vitalizing power depends 
upon what is the characteristic essence of imagi- 
nation, the unanalyzable power of seeing things 



Passion and Imagination in Poetry. 17 

freshly and in new and harmonious associations. 
The idea must precede the execution, and it is 
a small matter whether the term Imagination 
be employed of the idea or the embodiment. 
Between Imagination and Fancy, therefore, as 
Coleridge conceived them, there could be no 
confusion. 

The trouble began with Wordsworth. By 
Imagination, as by Fancy, Wordsworth prac- 
tically means the use of poetical imagery ; but 
he ascribes to the higher faculty the images 
which occur to the poet not in his superficial 
moods, but under the influence of deeper emo- 
tion 1 . Leigh Hunt preserved and illustrated 
this distinction from a wide range of poets. 

1 Characteristically Wordsworth, in his celebrated preface, 
illustrated what he meant by Imagination, not from his friend's 
poetry, but his own. Upon the line " Over his own sweet voice 
the stock-dove broods," he thus comments : " The stock-dove is 
said to coo, a sound well imitating the note of the bird ; but by 
the intervention of the metaphor broods, the affections are called 
in by the imagination to assist in marking the manner in which 
the bird reiterates and prolongs her soft note, as if herself de- 
lighting to listen to it, and participatory of a still and quiet 
satisfaction, like that which may be supposed inseparable from 
the continuous process of incubation." 

B. 2 



1 8 Passion and Imagination in Poetry. 

Mr Ruskin, in the second volume of Modern 
Painters (p. 163), turned aside from an elaborate 
disquisition upon Imagination in painting to 
speak of poetry. " The Fancy," he says, " sees 
the outside, and so is able to give a portrait 
of the outside, clear, brilliant, and full of detail ; 
the Imagination sees the heart and inner nature, 
and makes them felt, but is often obscure, 
mysterious, and interrupted in its giving of 
outer detail." And then follows a remarkable 
parallel between the flower passage in Lycidas 
and that in the Winter's Tale, greatly to the 
disadvantage of the former. 

It will be remembered that the passage 
from Lycidas is printed with marginal notes, 
as follows : 

"Bring the rathe primrose that 

forsaken dies, Imagination. 

The tufted crow-toe, and pale 

jessamine, Nugatory. 

The white pink, and the pansy 

freaked with jet, Fancy. 

The glowing violet, Imagination. 

The musk-rose, and the well- 

attii-'d woodbine, Fancy and -vulgar. 



Passion and Imagination in Poetry. 19 

With cowslips wan that hang 

the pensive head, Imagination. 

And every flower that sad em- 
broidery wears." Mixed. 

Then follows the passage from the Winter's 

Tale : 

" O Proserpina, 

For the flowers now, that, frighted, thou let'st fall 
From Dis's waggon ! daffodils, 
That come before the swallow dares, and take 
The winds of March with beauty ; violets, dim, 
But sweeter than the lids of Juno's eyes, 
Or Cytherea's breath ; pale primroses, 
That die unmarried, ere they can behold 
Bright Phoebus in his strength, a malady 
Most incident to maids." 

And then comes this criticism : 

" Observe how the imagination in these last lines goes 
into the very inmost soul of every flower, after having 
touched them all at first with that heavenly timidness, 
the shadow of Proserpine's, and gilded them with celestial 
gathering, and never stops on their spots or their bodily 
shape ; while Milton sticks in the stains upon them and 
puts us off with that unhappy freak of jet in the very 
flower that, without this bit of paper-staining, would have 
been the most precious to us of all. ' There is pansies, 
that's for thoughts.' " 

I do not know whether this comparison has 
ever been the subject of adverse comment : I 
have often heard it praised. To me, I confess, 

2 2 



2o Passion and Imagination in Poetry. 

it seems a compendium of all the faults that 
a critic of poetry should avoid : waywardness, 
preciosity, inattention, and the uncritical use of 
critical labels. In the first place the critic has 
ignored what is of the first consequence, the 
motive of the two pieces, and has treated them 
as parallel flower-passages from a volume of 
elegant extracts ; whereas no criticism can be to 
the point that does not recognize that Milton's 
flowers are being gathered for a funeral, and 
Shakespeare's are not to be gathered at all ; 
they are visionary spring flowers, seen in glory 
through the autumn haze. Without going at 
length through each passage it is worth noticing 
that Shakespeare's lines about the primrose are 
open to precisely the same censure, no more 
and no less, as Mr Ruskin accords to Milton's 
pansy. The epithet "pale" is very far from 
" going into the very inmost soul " of the prim- 
rose, which is a hardy flower, and not in the 
least anaemic ; it " sticks in the stains " upon 
the surface as much as the "freaked with jet"; 



Passion and Imagination in Poetry. 2 1 

and this, again, so far from being " unhappy," 
gives the reason why the pansy was chosen for 
the hearse among the flowers that "sad em- 
broidery wear." A second point to notice con- 
cerns the lines that are marked " nugatory." 
Both Shakespeare and Milton had the instinct 
to see that just as, on the one hand, a flower- 
passage must not be a mere catalogue, so, on 
the other, each item must not be unduly em- 
phasized. And so we find that, while Milton 
has his " tufted crow-toe and pale jessamine," 
and his " well-attir'd woodbine " to make up the 
bunch, Shakespeare also has his 

" Bold oxlips, and 

The crown-imperial, lilies of all kinds, 
The flower-de-luce being one ! " 

a "nugatory" passage which Mr Ruskin omits 
from his quotation. So much, then, for the 
contrast of Imagination and Fancy, which 
critics might now be content to let die. 

In resuming what has been said about the 
two great characteristics of the poetical mind, 



22 Passion and Imagination in Poetry. 

its passion and its imagination, it may be useful 
to illustrate from the picture that our great 
dramatist has drawn of the poetical character 
in the person of Macbeth. Macbeth, indeed, 
was a poet without a conscience ; but that cir- 
cumstance is to the advantage of our illustration, 
since we shall not be able to confuse his morality 
with his poetry. There are several points that 
may be noticed. 

1. First, though on this much stress must 
not be laid, we observe Macbeth's power of 
summoning up, and vividly objectifying im- 
pressions of sense. He sees an air-drawn 
dagger. He hears a voice say, " Sleep no 
more." 

2. Secondly, and this is fundamental, we 
remark the passionate intensity with which he 
realizes whatever comes before him, his own 
states of mind, or events that happen, and sees 
them in all their attendant circumstances and 
consequences. No fact that at all interests him 
remains a barren fact to him, and most facts 



Passion and Imagination in Poetry. 23 

do interest him. When he is contemplating the 
death of Duncan he appreciates thoroughly and 
entirely all that is involved in that death : 

" He's here in double trust : 
First, as I am his kinsman, and his subject, 
Strong both against the deed ; then, as his host, 
Who should against his murderer shut the door, 
Not bear the knife myself. Besides, this Duncan 
Hath borne his faculties so meek, hath been 
So clear in his great office, that his virtues 
Will plead like angels, trumpet-tongued, against 
The deep damnation of his taking-off." 

So he goes from point to point, realizing as 
he goes. Even more striking is the way in 
which he is moved after the murder by Duncan's 
untroubled condition, thoroughly appreciating 

it: 

" Duncan is in his grave ; 
After life's fitful fever, he sleeps well ; 
Treason has done his worst : nor steel, nor poison, 
Malice domestic, foreign levy, nothing, 
Can touch him further ! " 

Or consider the passage at the end of the play, 
where he is contemplating his own deserted 
state : 

" I have liv'd long enough ; my way of life 
Is fall'n into the sear, the yellow leaf; 



24 Passion and Imagination in Poetry. 

And that which should accompany old age, 
As honour, love, obedience, troops' of friends, 
I must not look to have ; but, in their stead, 
Curses, not loud, but deep, mouth-honour, breath, 
Which the poor heart would fain deny, but dare not." 

Especially characteristic here of the poet seems 
to me the pause on the idea of curses, to realize 
them, before going further, " curses, not loud, but 



3. In the third place, we remark that, as 
Macbeth realizes with such vividness and such 
emotion the qualities of everything that appeals 
to him, so one thing is always suggesting another 
with similar qualities : 

" Then comes my fit again ; I had else been perfect ; 
Whole as the marble, founded as the rock, 
As broad and general as the casing air ; 
But now I am cabin'd. cribb'd, confined." 

When the ghostly voice that he hears, the echo 
of his own imaginative mind, suggests to him 
the terrible thought that he has murdered not 
the king only, but Sleep, the greatest friend of 
man, he is at once absorbed in the thought of 
all the wonder and mystery of sleep, which he 



Passion and Imagination in Poetry. 25 

draws out into a long string of images ; for- 
getting all about the business he had been 
engaged in, and the bloody daggers in his hand, 
until his practical wife in blank amazement 
breaks in with, " What do you mean ? " No one, 
again, is likely to forget the desolate images 
under which he sums up his idea of the worth- 
lessness and meaninglessness of human life : 

" Life's but a walking shadow ; a poor player, 
That struts and frets his hour upon the stage, 
And then is seen no more : it is a tale 
Told by an idiot, full of sound and fury, 
Signifying nothing." 

4. I would point out, further, as a frequent 
trait of the poetic nature, Macbeth's simplicity ; 
shown partly by his interest in his own moods ; 
for example, in such sayings as " False face 
must hide what the false heart doth know " ; 
more curiously in his speculation why he could 
not say "Amen " when the groom he was about 
to murder said, "God bless us"; most curiously 
in his irritation at ghost-walking: 

" The times have been 
That, when the brains were out, the man would die, 



26 Passion and Imagination in Poetry. 

And there an end ; but now they rise again, 
With twenty mortal murders on their crowns, 
And push us from our stools ; this is more strange 
Than such a murder is." 

5. Finally, though in this I am trespassing 
on a subject which I hope to discuss in a second 
lecture, we cannot but observe Macbeth's extra- 
ordinary talent for expression. I will give but 
one instance. Shakespeare, whether by design 
or chance, has reserved for him what is, perhaps, 
the most remarkable presentment in literature of 
the phenomenon of falling night 

" Light thickens," 

an expression which gives not only the fact of 
growing darkness, but also its qualities. 

The picture of the poetical nature that 
Shakespeare has given us in Macbeth is con- 
siderably heightened if by the side of it we add 
for contrast his Richard II. Without working 
out the parallel in any detail, it will be enough 
to call attention to two points. In the first 
place, Richard has no imagination in the sense 
which we have seen reason to give to that term ; 



Passion and Imagination in Poetry. 27 

he has no intuition into the scope and meaning 
and consequences of human actions. Compare, 
for instance, with Macbeth's picture of old age, 
Richard's picture of a dethroned king : 

" I'll give my jewels for a set of beads, 
My gorgeous palace for a hermitage ; 
My gay apparel for an almsman's gown, 
My figured goblets for a dish of wood ; 
My sceptre for a palmer's walking staff, 
My subjects for a pair of carved saints ; 
And my large kingdom for a little grave," &c. 

The points in the picture which rouse Richard's 
emotion, and which he sets out before us, are 
all merely superficial ; never once does he touch 
the real heart of the matter. The other notice- 
able thing is that Richard is much less interested 
in persons or events than in his feelings about 
them, and then only in such as are lamentable; 
and perhaps, it would be true to add, less in the 
lamentable feelings than in the pathetic language 
in which they can be expressed. He " hammers 
out " a simile as though it was an end in itself, 
and is moved by a curious phrase so as almost 
to forget his troubles. In the coronation scene, 



28 Passion and Imagination in Poetry. 

after Richard has cast down the looking-glass 
with the words, 

" How soon my sorrow hath destroyed my face," 

Bolingbroke, with all a practical man's contempt 
of play-acting and rhetoric, satirically replies : 

" The shadow of your sorrow hath destroyed 
The shadow of your face," 

whereupon Richard is at once arrested : 

" Say that again ! 
The shadow of my sorrow ! ha ! let's see ! " 

Could there be a more vivid portrait of the 
" minor poet " or sentimentalist ? 



EXPRESSION IN POETRY. 

IN the foregoing lecture I ventured an attempt 
to investigate the constant qualities of the 
poetical mind ; in this I wish to consider what 
are, speaking generally, the means at the poet's 
disposal for conveying his passion and his 
imaginative vision to his hearers. For of poets, 
as of the rest of us, it may be said that 

"if our virtues 

Did not go forth of us, 'twere all alike 
As if we had them not." 

A "mute" Milton would certainly be "inglori- 
ous"; he would also be useless: would he be 
conceivable ? Undoubtedly we can distinguish 
in thought the divine vision from the divine 
faculty which gives it expression, but is this 



30 Expression in Poetry. 

distinction anything more than logical ? May 
not the truth be that a poet expresses more 
than the rest of the world because he sees 
more, and like the rest of the world can ex- 
press up to the limit of his vision ? Our tutors 
and governors, when we were children, used to 
receive with well-grounded suspicion our not 
infrequent excuse for muteness, " I know, but 
I can't explain"; and it is equally probable 
that in poets the vision brings its own inter- 
pretative faculty. It is beyond dispute that 
the poets who have had the finest things to 
say are those who have said them most finely. 
If we take those passages which Matthew Arnold 
once suggested as touchstones of high poetic 
quality, and attempt to distinguish in them what 
is form from what is substance, we shall find the 
task impossible. 

" Wilt thou upon the high and giddy mast 
Seal up the ship boy's eyes, and rock his brains 
In cradle of the rude, imperious surge? ..." 

Is there here one word not necessary for the 



Expression in Poetry. 31 

picture it presents, one epithet we could obelize 
as inserted in the interests of mere style ? 
"High" is not enough without "giddy," be- 
cause the poet wishes to suggest the incredi- 
bleness, from a landsman's point of view, of 
sleep under such conditions ; " rude " and " im- 
perious " are both required to suggest the power 
of sleep which can ignore so savage a tyrant, 
nay, use him for her purposes, for it is the 
tossing that rocks the boy to sleep. We may 
then lay it down that, just as when we have 
reached our maturity and have something to 
say, the contents of our mind are, as a matter 
of fact, conveyed into our language with no 
appreciable loss, so that what we say is a 
faithful transcription of what we think, and our 
friends are seldom at a loss for our meaning ; 
so the poet's mood, by an even surer instinct, 
chooses for itself language which effectually 
conveys his passion or imaginative vision. 
The mystery in the relation of poetical vision 
to poetical expression is the prime mystery of 



32 Expression in Poetry. 

all human speech ; it is a mystery, and we 
cannot get behind it ; but it is not greater in 
the case of poets than with ordinary men and 
women. The great difference, from which all 
else depends, lies behind expression, in the 
texture of the poet's thought and feeling. I 
know that it is the fashion of the moment to 
make more of the distinction between artist 
and amateur than of that between poet and 
poetaster. I am, however, not denying that 
the poet is an artist. The instinct I speak of 
is an artistic instinct. Nor would I deny that 
every poet must serve an apprenticeship to his 
art, and improve by practice his gift of ex- 
pression. It is to be hoped that even those 
of us who talk prose improve by practice. My 
contention is merely that when the poem is 
written and before us, it will take rank, suppos- 
ing it to be a true poem, by the thing said, and 
that it will be found impossible to distinguish 
the substance from the form. A very simple 
consideration will show the truth of this position. 



Expression in Poetry. 33 

Why is it that the Idylls of the King and the 
In Memoriam contain so many passages that 
the world will quite willingly let die ? If the 
chief thing in poetry were the style, one part 
of these poems would be as good as another, 
for the style is uniform throughout. The answer, 
in all such cases, is that " soul is form and doth 
the body make." What is wanting in the weak 
places of these great poems is the soul, the 
poetic vision and enthusiasm, the absence of 
which no style can compensate. 

That being premised, we may go on to con- 
sider the most general means which the poet 
does, as a matter of fact, employ to convey to 
us his emotion. 

i. Poetry is essentially passionate, and its 
passion requires a heightened mode of ex- 
pression. In our literature this is supplied by 
metre. At its lowest, metre is, what Coleridge 
called it, " a stimulant of the attention." At 
the very least, it cuts off what is said from 
ordinary surroundings and raises it to an ideal 

B. 3 



34 Expression in Poetry. 

plane ; so that if what is said in metre be 
commonplace, its commonplaceness becomes at 
once more apparent. Hence bad verse is more 
intolerable than bad prose. But further, metre 
being not only rhythm but regulated rhythm, 
it is excellently adapted as a medium for poetry, 
which is not only emotion but, as Wordsworth 
said, "recollected emotion"; not wild passion, 
but passion conceived of as something in itself 
precious, which the poet wishes to impart to 
others. The poet desires to rouse not any 
emotion, but some one emotion in particular. 
Hence various emotions find their fit expression 
in appropriate metres. It is not by idle chance 
or mere caprice that Paradise Lost is written 
in iambic verse and Shelley's Ode to a Skylark 
in trochaics. Even in metres which appear to 
be least bound by rule, such as the choruses 
in Samson Agonistes, it will be found on in- 
vestigation that a reason underlies the apparent 
vagary. It is with these rhythms as with the 
wheels in Ezekiel's vision : " To the place 



Expression in Poetry. 35 

whither the head looked they followed it, for 
the spirit of a living creature was in them." 

But although every poem must be written 
not in rhythm only, but in metre, it is possible 
while preserving the framework of metre to vary 
the rhythm by changes in pause and accent. 
Hood's Eugene Aram and Rossetti's Blessed 
Damosel are written in the same metre, but the 
differences in rhythm are so great that the one 
poem never for a moment suggests the other. 
Similarly Tennyson's blank verse does not re- 
call Milton's. And within the same poem a 
writer will vary his rhythm, partly for the sake 
of the variety, but also in order to produce 
special effects. Some such effects are fairly 
obvious and will be found generalised in ancient 
and modern treatises, like Horace's Ars Poetica 
and Pope's Essay on Criticism : 

" When Ajax strives some rock's vast weight to throw 
The line too labours and the words move slow, &c." 

Other effects can only be recognized when the 
poet's artistic sense has achieved them. Thus 

32 



36 Expression in Poetry. 

in Tennyson's Idylls of the King, we have, on 
the ground-plan of his unrhymed five-accent 
line, effects as markedly different as the follow- 
ing, in each of which the rhythm helps to 
express the action described : 

" So dark a forethought roll'd about his brain, 
As on a dull day in an Ocean cave 
The blind wave feeling round his long sea-hall 
In silence." 

" Gareth loosed the stone 
From off his neck ; then in the mere beside 
Tumbled it; oilily bubbled up the mere." 

Almost any page of Paradise Lost will supply 
examples of greater or less subtlety. There is 
an easy contrast for instance between the de- 
scription of Satan's mounting to the roof of 
Hell, where the rhythm is almost dactylic : 

" Some times 

He scours the right-hand coast, some times the left, 
Now shaves with level wing the deep, then soars 
Up to the fiery concave, towering high." 

and the succession of strong accents in the de- 
scription of his flight down to the earth from 
heaven : 



Expression in Poetry. 37 

"Down right into the world's first region throws 
His flight precipitant and winds with ease 
Through the pure marble air his oblique ray 
Amongst innumerable stars," 

while the rhythm follows with even more de- 
licate faithfulness the other motions described. 
2. A second great means employed by 
English poetry to express emotion is rhyme. 
Rhyme, as much as metre, is a mode of 
heightening expression, a stimulant to the at- 
tention. Attempts have been made from time 
to time to abandon the use of rhyme alto- 
gether, as a relic of barbarism. Campion, who 
himself used rhyme to delightful effect, wrote 
a treatise to prove its " unaptness for poesy"; 
and even Milton in his old age wrote a preface 
to his epic in which he disparaged it, not only 
as a " troublesome bondage in heroic poem," 
which no doubt it is ; and not only as " the 
invention of a barbarous age to set off wretched 
matter and lame metre," as perhaps it was ; but 
as " a thing of itself to all judicious ears trivial, 
and of no true musical delight." Thus the 



38 Expression in Poetry. 

author of Paradise Lost turned his back on 
the author of Lycidas. And yet still later in 
his life Milton's true poetic instinct once more 
vindicated rhyme against this critical judgment 
by using it to " set off metre," that was far from 
lame, in the choruses of Samson. 

" All is best, though we oft doubt 

What th' unsearchable dispose 
Of highest wisdom brings about 

And ever best found in the close. 
Oft he seems to hide his face 

But unexpectedly returns, 
And to his faithful champion hath in place 

Bore witness gloriously whence Gaza mourns, 
And all that band them to resist 

His uncontrollable intent. 
His servants he with new acquist 

Of true experience from this great event 
With peace and consolation hath dismist 

And calm of mind, all passion spent." 

Is the rhyme in this fine passage otiose and 
trivial ? No one can fail to observe what variety 
it lends to the chorus by ringing the changes 
on all the chief vowel sounds, or how it marks 
sections of the thought ; first the text, then the 
illustration, then the moral. The second sec- 



Expression in Poetry. 39 

tion, indeed, runs on into the third quatrain of 
rhymes ; but by that slight irregularity the ode 
is bound together, and the ear kept on the alert, 
until the full close, for the chime that is sure to 
come. 

3. These things, then, metre and rhyme, 
being granted to the poet as two ingredients 
of his magic cauldron, by means of which he 
is to conjure up the mood or scene that he 
desires to set before us, we come to the third, 
his use of words, and proceed to enquire whether 
there are any principles governing the use of 
language peculiar to poetry. Here it must be 
remembered that all a critic can do is to analyse 
more or less successfully what methods have 
actually been employed by this poet and that 
for the production of their effects. There is 
no one poetic method, just as there is no sepa- 
rate poetic vocabulary. Every new poet will 
achieve his new result in a new way, which he 
will find the easier and also the harder for the 
enterprise of his predecessors. There are, how- 



4O Expression in Poetry. 

ever, two or three artistic principles of universal 
application which call for notice. The first is, 
that the poem must have an atmosphere of its 
own ; or, to change the metaphor, the words 
must be all in the same key. Now, no mere 
poetical joinery can achieve such a result as 
this. Unless the words are generated by 
" thoughts that breathe," they will have no life 
in them, and no natural and inevitable relation 
to each other. For an example, take a quatrain 
from Gray's beautiful sonnet upon his friend 
West : 

" These ears, alas ! for other notes repine ; 

A different object do these eyes require ; 
My lonely anguish melts no heart but mine, 
And in my breast the imperfect joys expire." 

These lines were chosen by Wordsworth in his 
famous Preface to point the moral that the 
language of poetry differs in no respect from 
that of prose when it is well written. The 
moral they really point is a different one. Their 
tone is unique ; it is unlike that of any other 
elegy in the language. The poet's instinct has 



Expression in Poetry. 41 

guided him securely to express his own special 
emotion, and to avoid any word " of dissonant 
mood from his complaint." Whether the words 
might be classed as prosaic or poetical he has 
not stopped to enquire. If a poetaster had been 
writing the sonnet, he would have avoided what 
would have seemed to him so tame an ex- 
pression as " the imperfect joys expire." But 
how absolutely right it is, in its place and for 
its purpose. Again, what but genius could have 
conceived the reticence of the two epithets 
"other" and "different"? It should be clear, 
then, that one principle governing the use of 
words in poetry is that every poem must have 
an atmosphere of its own ; it must be in a 
definite mode, to which the poet's emotion will 
guide him surely. The poet's passion may be any 
one of a myriad moods, for the heart of man is 
infinite, and the special quality of the particular 
passion will show itself in the quality of the words. 
We shall feel it in them, even though we are not 
able to describe it. When people say " this is 



42 Expression in Poetry. 

genuine poetry," what they often mean is that 
a passionate mood has succeeded, by the poet's 
instinct, in condensing itself into words, and in 
reading the words they distinguish the passion. 
Consider, for a second example, a stanza in 
Wordsworth's Solitary Reaper: 

" Will no one tell me what she sings ? 
Perhaps the plaintive numbers flow 
For old, unhappy, far-off things, 
And battles long ago." 

If we take these lines to pieces, we may be 
tempted to say it is the prosiest verse ever 
written ; " old," " unhappy," " far-off," are words 
of an everyday vocabulary, and " Will no one 
tell me what she sings?" might almost occur 
in any drawing-room conversation. But if we 
are content not to take the passage to pieces, 
if we are content to receive it and let it make 
its own impression as a whole, we must acknow- 
ledge it to be a perfect rendering of the effect 
on the poet's mind of the wild, vague, sad 
Highland music. A good proof of poetical 



Expression in Poetry. 43 

adequacy is that such lines cannot be para- 
phrased. 

It is an interesting experience to take up 
a Shakespeare and remark how the speeches, 
apart from their merely grammatical sense, are 
all pitched in a certain key, and make on us 
the impression of a definite mood. Take, for 
an instance, the familiar lines of Demetrius in 
A Midsummer Night's Dream, after the troubles 
and misunderstandings of the night are over and 
he is looking back upon them : 

" These things seem small and undistinguishable, 
Like far-off mountains turned into clouds." 

The mere grammatical sense, if the words were 
paraphrased, would not be striking, but the words 
themselves convey who can tell how? the 
wondering reverie of a man still only half 
awake*. It is even more interesting to study 



* It is noticeable that those short passages in which 
Shakespeare describes a sunrise all take colour from the circum- 
stances of the dramatis persona. Shakespeare has not a pigeon- 
hole for sunrises from which he draws indiscriminately at need. 
To the ghost in Hamlet the morning comes as the twilight of 



44 Expression in Poetry. 

with the same view the pictures of landscape in 
the works of the great masters. Landscape, of 
course, is far from being a fixed quantity. The 
poet, indeed, paints what he sees ; but that means 
he paints what he sees ; and in painting he paints 
his own mood, even though he does not neces- 
sarily mean to do so. How definite is the mood 
of the concluding passage of Keats' Ode to 
A utumn : 

" Hedge-crickets sing, and now, with treble soft, 
The redbreast whistles from a garden croft, 
And gathering swallows twitter in the skies." 

The tone of the words is of a somewhat meagre 
joy. All the verbs contain the vowel i, the 
thinnest of vowels. The poet seems to say : 
" The glory of the year is departing, but it is 
not yet gone, let us make the best of what 

night, which is his day, and so he expresses it by reference to the 
paling light of the glow-worm : 

"The glow-worm shews the matin to be near, 
And 'gins to pale his uneffectual fire." 

A remarkable contrast to the lively image of Horatio : 
"But look, the morn in russet mantle clad 
Walks o'er the dew of yon high eastern hill ! " 



Expression in Poetry. 45 

remains." He does not say that ; he gives but 
a hint of it in the gathering of the swallows, 
and for the rest sings the best Jubilate he can. 
But the mood is unmistakable. Contrast with 
it as celebrated a picture of Autumn, that by 
Crabbe, at the end of Delay has Danger: 

" He saw the wind upon the water blow ; 
Far to the left he saw the huts of men, 
Half hid in mist that hung upon the fen ; 
Before him swallows, gathering for the sea, 
Took their short flights, and twittered on the lea ; 
And near the bean-sheaf stood, the harvest done, 
And slowly blackened in the sickly sun." 

There is only one epithet there which very 
definitely fixes the key of the passage, the epithet 
"sickly"; and I am not sure that it does not 
a little force the note, and spoil the harmony. 
Apart from that there is nothing ; and yet the 
mood is unmistakable. It is a mood of deep 
dejection. You can hear it in every line, even 
in such a line as 

"He saw the wind upon the water blow," 
which contains no epithet, and yet makes you 
shiver. I need not, perhaps, further illustrate 



46 Expression in Poetry. 

this first principle, that given a mood of emotion, 
it can and will find means of expressing itself 
unmistakably. 

It may, however, be well to illustrate the 
fact that the poet's instinct may not always 
secure the most adequate expression at the first 
attempt. In Trinity College, Cambridge, there 
is preserved a manuscript of certain of Milton's 
minor poems which shows that he achieved 
some of his most consummate results by a series 
of experiments, each bringing him nearer to his 
goal. One of the most marvellous lines in the 
Comus comes in a passage where the Lady lost 
in the dark wood falls a prey to vague midnight 
fancies, and says : 

"A thousand fantasies 
Begin to throng into my memory 
Of calling shapes, and beckoning shadows dire, 
And airy tongues that syllable men's names 
On sands and shores and desert wildernesses." 

For the line in italics Milton had originally 
written "And airy tongues that lure night- 
wanderers"; but how vastly better did his 



Expression in Poetry. 47 

second thoughts convey his sense. "Syllable" 
is a word exquisitely fitted for his purpose. 
Being pure sound, it suggests the idea of words 
being uttered that are mere sounds, words said 
by " airy tongues " with no intelligence behind 
them, words said clearly and carefully as by 
a child who does not know the meaning of what 
he is saying. The manuscripts of Shelley and 
Coleridge tell a like tale. And even where 
manuscripts are not to be had, it is often possible, 
by comparing the several editions of a poem, to 
see how, by a slight touch here and there, the 
poet has succeeded in conveying his meaning 
to us more perfectly. Let me give two examples 
from Tennyson. In the first edition of the 
Princess, the first line of that exquisite song, 
" Home they brought her warrior dead," appeared 
as " Home they brought him, slain with spears." 
Clearly the poet perceived that he had been 
trying to convey too much : the kind of battle 
in which the warrior fell was really unimportant 
for his purpose ; the important fact was the fact 



48 Expression in Poetry. 

of death. So he moved the word dead to the 
most emphatic place in the line, and implied 
the death in battle by the word warrior. The 
other example I would adduce is the first line 
of Tithonus, which, when it first appeared in the 
Corn/till Magazine, ran : 

"Ay me, ay me, the woods decay and fall." 
This was subsequently altered into its present 
form, 

"The woods decay, the woods decay, and fall," 
a much better line under the circumstances ; 
because the repetition of the clause " the woods 
decay " creates a pause before the words " and 
fall," which are the words of most emphasis, and 
are thus thrown into greater prominence. Titho- 
nus, too, had decayed, like the leaves ; unlike 
them, he could not come altogether to an end. 
It is interesting also to notice that while some 
poets are thus able to recollect their emotion 
and improve by revision the expression of it, 
others totally lack this power. A striking in- 
stance was William Morris. 



Expression in Poetry. 49 

A second great artistic principle in the 
poetical use of language is the axiom laid down 
by Coleridge that a poet should " paint to the 
imagination"; by which is meant that the poet 
should never, in describing objects, labour to 
accumulate detail, but find some way of summon- 
ing up his picture before our eyes at a stroke. 
This principle, coming from a poet, reminds one, 
to compare great things with small, of the ex- 
planations given by conjurors of their tricks. 
" That," they say, " is how it's done." How to 
do it is a different matter. But that it is really 
done so, we may convince ourselves by taking 
examples. Matthew Arnold among the touch- 
stones of poetry, to which I have already referred, 
included those lines of Milton about the Rape of 
Proserpine, 

"Which cost Ceres all that pain 
To seek her through the world." 

Who but a poet of the first rank would have 

dared that simple touch, " all that pain " ; how 

effective it is upon the mind of the instructed 

B. 4 



50 Expression in Poetry. 

reader, for whom alone Milton wrote ; what 
accumulation of epithet could produce a tenth 
part of the effect ? Whatever we have read in 
old poets at once leaps to memory. 

This principle of calling in the reader's 
imagination to fill out the poet's outline helps 
us to understand why poets are so ready to 
compare one thing with another. The process 
is a kind of hypnotism ; the poet makes a 
suggestion and the reader at once sees the 
picture*. A simple and very effective instance 
is Tennyson's comparison of the pallor of the 
wounded King's face to the fading moon 

"All his face was white 
And colourless, and like the wither'd moon 
Smote by the fresh beam of the springing East." 

The painting of landscape in the poetry of 

* It is not merely physical resemblances that are best 
indicated by imagery. Thoughts and sentiments are often 
poetically enforced by a comparison, which in pure reason is not 
to the point. 

' ' Weep no more, nor sigh, nor groan, 
Sorrow calls no time that's gone; 
Violets plucked the sweetest rain 
Makes not fresh or grow again." 



Expression in Poetry. 



this century owes a great deal to this illustrative 
method. It is plain that the most painful and 
literal accuracy could not give the picture of 
autumn leaves driven before the wind so fully 
and effectively as Shelley's fine image 

" Like ghosts from an enchanter fleeing," 

or the picture of the sudden thrusting and 
thronging of spring buds in hedgerows and 
garden beds so well as another image in the 
same poem 

" Driving sweet buds like flocks to feed in air." 

In still higher poetry we may see the principle 
at work in such a piece as Shakespeare's seventy- 
third sonnet : 

" That time of year thou mayst in me behold, 

When yellow leaves, or none, or few, do hang 
Upon those boughs which shake against the cold, 

Bare, ruin'd choirs, where late the sweet birds sang. 
In me thou see'st the twilight of such day, 

As, after sunset, fadeth in the west, 
Which by and by black night doth take away, 

Death's second self, that seals up all in rest. 
In me thou see'st the glowing of such fire, 

That on the ashes of his youth doth lie, 

42 



52 Expression in Poetry. 

As the death-bed whereon it must expire, 

Consum'd with that which it was nourish'd by. 
This thou perceiv'st, which makes thy love more strong, 
To love that well, which thou must leave ere long." 

The root-thought in this sonnet is that the 
coming on of age makes the friend's love 
stronger, because the time is short. The picture 
of age is brought before us, however, not directly, 
but by three pictorial comparisons : first, to the 
dying of the year, then to the dying of each day, 
then to the dying down of a fire ; each supplying 
some vivid detail which applies with special 
poignancy to the lover's case and the first 
especially reminding us by reference to the 
" ruined choirs " that the aged lover is also the 
poet. 

In conclusion, it may be noted that there 
are certain qualities of individual words of which 
poets, above all other writers, are careful to take 
advantage. The poet is alive to the associa- 
tions of words. In the line quoted above from 
Gray, 

"A different object do these eyes require," 



Expression in Poetry. 53 



it is plain that the word require is used with 
a reminiscence of such a Virgilian line as 
"Amissos longo socios sermone requirmit" 

and brings with it the wistfulness of the Latin. 
Milton and Tennyson are especially happy in 
such learned use of words. Further, the poet 
can, and constantly does, take advantage of the 
actual sound of the words themselves. The 
device of alliteration has passed in English from 
being part of the mechanism of all poetry, an 
initial rhyme, into a means of producing special 
effects ; effects as various as the quality of the 
several letters. It needs no enforcing that in 
such a phrase as Milton's 

" Behemoth, biggest born of earth," 

the repeated effort to form the labial helps the 
imagination to an impression of bigness, while in 
another line of his 

"The world of waters wide and deep," 

or " wallowing unwieldy," the open effect of the 
three w's helps the all-abroadness of the idea. 



54 Expression in Poetry. 

So liquids minister to a verse of their liquidity, 
and sibilants can soothe a verse to sleep as well 
as a child. What goes commonly by the name of 
onomatopoeia is a step beyond this. Here actual 
sounds in nature are more or less suggested. 
Some words, such as murmuring, are themselves 
onomatopoeic in origin ; others have come to be 
so by chance, or are compelled into such service 
by the poet. Examples are drizzling, trickling, 
tumbling, noise, cry, all of which are to be found 
in the stanza of the Faerie Queene describing the 
cave of Morpheus. 

"And more to lull him in his slumber soft, 
A trickling stream from high rock tumbling down, 
And ever-drizzling rain upon the loft, 
Mixt with a murmuring wind, much like the sown 
Of swarming bees, did cast him in a swoun ; 
No other noise, nor people's troublous cries, 
As still are wont to annoy the walled town, 
Might here be heard ; but careless Quiet lies 
Wrapt in eternal silence far from enemies." 

Beyond onomatopoeia, again, we have in certain 
poets, but by no means all, the power of sug- 
gesting by words not sound only but motion. 



Expression in Poetry. 55 

Keats succeeds occasionally in this sort of cine- 
matographic effect, e.g., in his description of a 
gust of wind coming and going. 

" Save for one gradual solitary gust, 
Which comes upon the silence and dies off 
As if the ebbing air had but one wave." 

Much of the effect of this passage is due to the 
emphatic monosyllable " comes," which gives 
the impression of suddenness. Keats puts it 
to much the same service in his description of 
the moon breaking from a cloud. And much of 
the effect of Tennyson's Crossing the Bar, one 
of his most admirable pictures of motion, depends 
upon the monosyllabic verbs. 

" May there be no moaning of the bar 

When I put out to sea, 
But such a tide as moving seems asleep 

Too full for sound or foam, 

When that which drew out of the boundless deep, 
Turns again home." 

I will conclude with a passage, written by 
one who was himself a master of the poetic 
craft, analysing the suggestiveness of the sound 
effects in a couplet of Coleridge's Christabel: 



56 Expression in Poetry. 

"The brands were flat, the brands were dying, 
Amid their own white ashes lying." 

" Here the cold vowels a, i, o are the only 
ones which are openly sounded, and of these 
a is repeated five times, and i three times, the 
e in the short the preceding, as it does, the long 
syllable brand is scarcely heard ; the ear is 
wholly occupied with the eight cold vowels 
which occur in the long syllables of the eight 
feet that constitute these lines. The only effect 
of warmth is a very slight one, produced by the 
rapid succession of the consonants b, r and n, d 
in the word brand. Again, there is an effect of 
weight conveyed by the word brand, and to this 
effect we are invited to attend, by the repetition 
of it, and by the first juxtaposition and contrast 
of this word with other words conveying the 
notion of softness and lightness : finally the 
two ideas of lightness and weight are united, 
and the effect completed by the word amid, in 
which the sound passing through the soft m and 
its indistinct vowels, concludes in a heavy d; 



Expression in Poetry. 57 

and completes to a delicate ear and a prepared 
mind, the entire picture of the weighty and 
smouldering brands, sunken through the light 
mass of ashes which remains after their undis- 
turbed combustion*." 

* Coventry Patmore in a review of Tennyson's Princess, 
quoted in Patmore's Life, i. 106. 



CAMBRIDGE: PRINTED BY j. AND c. F. CLAY, AT THE UNIVERSITY PRESS. 






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